Archive for the ‘invasions’ Category

distant confrontations

February 20, 2008

As I review my 8 months in Palestine, each face vivid with a distinct story to tell, I revisit also the pain of seeing the daily indignities, and also the pain of losing a friend.

I’ve hesitated to dwell on this, as losing a friend, loved one, family member is far too common in occupied Palestine. But it was new for me, aside from beloved pets and distant relatives. This was someone who only the day before I had seen and teased, whose sisters, mother, wife, and baby son live on without him. That abrupt loss of a friend was made worse by the fact that I was within blocks of his home –and heard the explosions –the night he was killed.

Explosions are normal in Nablus. Not because Nablusi are inherently ‘militant,’ ‘terrorist-minded,’ ‘extremist,’ or any of the other key words which are used to defame a resistance to a decades-old occupation (and deter from that fact)… Rather, explosions are normal because Nablus is in occupied Palestine and is still an area that actively resists, something which in almost any other nation would be supported and applauded. Terminology. Rhetoric. Words at the expense of lives.

I heard the bombs that killed Abed that night. I awoke to them. Sat up a bit, looked out the window of the central old-city Palestinian friend’s apartment I was sleeping in, and knew there was nothing I could do that night. Oddly, already accustomed to loud bombings and gunfire at night, I thought about it a while, then went back to sleep. Tomorrow was another day, of army confrontations and potential settler assaults, which was fruitful in both regards.

As I speak to people back in my own country about what I saw, experienced, felt, lost… it seems so distant. Life here has its own complications, but many in comparison seem engineered to distract from those very real, daily, debilitating, and horrific problems of life in occupied Palestine

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temperment of soldiers

November 27, 2007

While I have not become immune to the tragedies of life under Occupation, hearing daily of the latest Israeli army inflicted deaths, injuries, and invasions becomes somehow ‘normal,’ although no one should be subjected to this sort of life as a ‘normal’ reality. But some things shake up these perceptions anew, awakening one to how truly abnormal and terrifying Palestinians’ lives under occupation and invasions are, as used to them as Palestinians may be.

Meeting this latest batch of soldiers in the West Bank village we are in has done that today. The village has been assaulted with invasions, curfews, roadblocks and flying military checkpoints near-daily for the past month, and on a regular basis for the past year, with overall Occupational problems since the start of this Intifada over 7 years ago. These latest Israeli soldiers are jumpy and nervous, very aggressive and seemingly ready to fire and hit at any provocation, or perceived provocation.

Yet it is they who are doing the provoking, loitering at schools at the end of classes when kids will be walking home, roaming the streets looking for potential trouble (rather, inviting stone-throwing by repeatedly invading residential areas in their heavily armed military jeeps and hummers), nabbing boys of 13 from the streets to rough them up before dumping them back out, and scouring the area even in the early hours of the morning, flashing search lights down residential lanes and into windows.

This evening around 5 pm they occupied a hilltop, surrounding the lone house atop it and from their vantage point firing flares, sound bombs, and live ammunition off in the direction of the homes below. Presumably, they were ‘searching’ for some one. But more likely they were searching for the pretext to arrest and terrorize the residents.

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Terrorizing. What else can it be called when families are terrified awake on a near-nightly basis from the loud noises of Israeli soldiers setting off sound bombs, firing live bullets, and unleashing tear gas on the streets and even inside homes.

These families are people whose resistance entails not running away from the harassment, not moving out, continuing to work/study/live in the West Bank town they know as their own. Why should they leave? Where should they go? The Israeli army is trying very hard to encourage them away, but where would they go?

How old are these boys in uniforms who roam the streets by day and night, terrorizing the citizens? What really goes through their minds: do they really believe that they are in a highly dangerous area, that the residents are militants, that the 12 and 13 year old boys they haunt, handcuff, blindfold, and beat are suicide bombers? More somberly, are these soldiers aware to any degree of the needless and massive collective fear they engender with their nightly invasion antics, in which they shoot flares, sound bombs, tear gas, even bullets in the sleeping hours of the night, shocking residents awake? How lightly must residents sleep here. We foreigners start at every sound, not particularly because we fear they are directed at us, but because we want to be awake and ready if need be.

Ready to do what… we don’t know exactly in this situation. In theory, to document, to prevent assault and arrest, to de-escalate, to diffuse the IOF potential fear of being surrounded by terrorists and the Palestinian civilians’ feeling of being abandoned by the world to the world’s bully’s younger sibling.

In practice, we are finding that these particular soldiers are more on edge, more inclined to shun recognition of human rights, rights violations, and the international standing which normally affords observers relative safety from soldiers. Except at Bil’in. Except for Tom Hurndall, Rachel Corrie, Brian Avery…

Clearly the soldiers do not appreciate our presence here. In most places that the army romps, HRWs are seen as meddling where we don’t belong, in what we don’t understand, despite our solid grasp on international human rights norms, IOF violations of said norms, the desperate longing for peace and justice by the vast majority of Palestinians, and the denial of such justice and peace by the vast majority of IOF soldiers and Israeli politicians.

The IOF disdain was made evident when earlier they threatened us, told us not to be seen here again, in this village they impromptu called a closed military zone.

How, yanni, does life continue amidst this terror? Just 1 hour ago, the army prowled the streets, shot flares at the homes of sleeping villagers, shot flares at our apartment, shot the transistor supplying electricity to this side of town, and rumbled off in their military hummer and jeep. 20 minutes later, one intrepid man turned up solo in the centre where the transistor stands, fished out his flashlight, and worked on the problem, re-supplying electricity to the quarter. The mosque re-alit in its neon green, and home lights came on in dim glows. He ambled seemingly unaffected up and down the street where 30 minutes before soldiers had stationed their vehicles and played their war games. Did he know the IOF had been there, were the cause of the power outage? Did he care? Is he resigned to such antics? Is he determined not to resign to such antics?

Jumping a little more this evening at street sounds, each passing car brings us to our feet and the window. A taxi. The man to fix the transistor. A distant truck jangling with its load but out of sight. A long empty flatbed truck brazenly rolling down this invaded town’s road.

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The night is long, the week is long, the months are long, the Occupation and its deadly games are long, have gone on far too long, are long overdue for the world to see, grasp, and act upon to render a very late semblance of justice to a very maligned group of people recipient of injustice after injustice, rendered refugee time and again.

In a sad irony, this quest for justice will go discussed but not discussed in Annapolis later today.

August 16, 2007

A phone call from M in Rafah leaves me dumb and numb.

He thinks the recent IOF slaughter in Khan Younis is the start of something big.

“How can I use my privilege?” I asked him. “How can I influence my governments, my people, bring awareness and change?”

“I don’t know.” There was a long silence. I told him to take care, then immediately apologized for coming off so trite. How do you take care when being air and land bombed?

And I remember the Abu J family dancing in midday heat under the shade of their tent; I recall countless instances of young children touchingly concerned for even younger kids –or for me, offering tea with such graciousness. Memories of kids making do with barren, dusty, potholed surroundings, smiles bigger than I remember from my own safe childhood, playing football, sledding down a Tel Rumeida hill on a push-dolly, flinging out Dabka steps, shimmering to pop music from Egypt and Lebanon…

And I’m sure, Fatah or Hamas, kids and people are the same in Gaza, which is currently –yet again –being pounded by Israel.

There’s the family who, last week, welcomed me and another volunteer into their Hebron home, though we arrived after 10 pm and not actually knowing anyone present.

Sultan had earlier in the day told me of his sister’s wedding to occur the following day, minus significant family members stuck in Gaza. The sister was heartbroken, he said, that the family wouldn’t be together. He’d asked me to stop by the pre-wedding celebration that night.

But they graciously welcomed us, showing more interest in and hospitality to us than we deserved, unexpected strangers crashing a wedding party in tragic times.

I look at the words M brings together from his observations and from other news. It gives me deeper insight to the largely unreported tragedies occurring daily in Gaza, as well as the sporadic positive events and celebrations.

When I see the photos he takes, I cannot image seeing death like that on a near-daily basis. I cannot imagine the futility and bitterness that must grow with each click of the shutter. I can’t image how he gets any sleep at night, or gets past his own personal tragedies.

November 30, -0001

IOF is invading Nablus, again, and has imposed a curfew (read: complete lockdown; residents cannot leave their homes or walk in the streets, not for food, not for medicine, not for education or work).  This comes after touted peace talks in Cairo, to discuss how the west will support Fateh and isolate and starve Hamas and the people of Gaza.

While the occupying army almost nightly invades the old city of Nablus, as well as the three refugee camps in and outside the city (Balata, Askar, and Ayn), this daytime raid and lockdown hasn’t happened here for some months.

Being away from the situation wherever it occurs is always nerve-wracking: you never know just how bad it is or isn’t; you wonder about acquaintances and civilians within.

Just yesterday Israel resumed air and land strkes on Gaza. At least 13 were killed, though they were written off in the media as militants or terrorists.

It is especially incongruous knowing that these things go on while a great majority of Israelis remain oblivious, cut off from ordinary Palestinians, driving on –as Israeli Jeff Halper of ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions) put it –Israeli roads to Israeli cities or settlements (in Palestinian areas, but completely secured and sanitized), unaware of all that entails being an occupied people.

Perhaps they will hear or read about it tomorrow, a dry and inhumane propaganda piece negating the victims of IOF house invasions and demolitions and arbirtrary IOF violence which will never be prosecuted.

[later:]

3 homes were demolished in that invasion, in what Israel claims were attempts to locate wanted men (resistance fighters) but in what really amounted to another form of collective punishment] of their humanity and suffering under the occupation regime.

As predicted, the following day’s coverage did not even mention the demolition of three civilian homes, nor the resulting damage to neighbouring homes. The article did hint at some destruction, but instead stated that the demolitions occurred at “explosives factories.”

I met with the residents of these “explosives factories”.

IDF kills Palestinian gunman, wounds another in Nablus area

Israel Defense Forces troops on Saturday night shot dead an armed Palestinian in the Old City of Nablus.An IDF spokeswoman said troops shot at a gunman armed with an assault rifle and reported hitting him.Palestinian security officials said that the dead man was a shopkeeper who was killed and his brother wounded during an apparent attempt to shoot two gunmen in Nablus. The soldiers, disguised as Palestinians, opened fire from a building overlooking a meat and vegetable shop in the center of the town of Nablus when the two militants appeared, but hit the two civilians instead, the officials said. [the article began with “Israel Defense Forces on Saturday night shot dead an armed Palestinian… Was this the same civilian that was “hit instead”?] In a separate incident, IDF troops shot and wounded an armed Palestinian in a refugee camp near Nablus on Saturday night. Hours earlier, witnesses said IDF troops blew up several cement barriers that militants had placed in Nablus to prevent military vehicles from driving through the streets. [note the latter part of the sentence: “to prevent military vehicles from driving through the streets.” Given the nightly raids and rate of assassinations, kidnappings, and destructive IOF behaviour in Occupied West Bank and the militarily-surrounded city of Nablus, isn’t it the right of the people of Nablus to resist even with cement roadblocks? ]   Nihad Masri, the acting mayor of Nablus, said a few people sustained minor injuries from the blasts in the old city. [There was also significant structural damage done to surrounding buildings, including homes whose windows were blown out, as well as to water, sewage, and electricity infrastructure. Even blocks from the blasts, homes rattled and shook cheap paint from the walls. More significantly, the proximity of the blasts, and they were loud from much further away, heightened the normal level of fear due to incursions and gunfire. But these civilian stresses are not newsworthy. What about the civilians who have suffered year after year, let alone day after day, of violent invasions, of their homes being taken over—sometimes for a mere evening, sometimes for days and weeks on end—by Israeli Occupation Forces who inevitably leave the homes in a mauled disarray of intentionally humiliating ransacking.]

Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouthi said the IDF action in blowing up the barriers was “a new crime coming in the context of Israeli escalation against the Palestinian Authority and people.”The IDF spokeswoman said troops had found three explosives laboratories in Nablus this year along with numerous explosive belts being prepared for suicide bombers.It is the capital of terrorism   [read: resistance to Occupation. In February, IOF initiatedoperation hot winter,” with the army shooting at civilians, arresting approximately 150 people, and (caught on film) using children as human shields.]  in the West Bank. That is why it is important for the soldiers to go in there and prevent terrorists  [read: instigate further resistance; further oppress a civilian population; further stray from true efforts at negotiating peace]  from leaving there (to attack Israel),” she said.